Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, are on the verge of heading into a new virtual world for the good of education. The initiative is the result of an anticipated new Space Act Agreement (SAA) administered by Goddard’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office.

The Massively Multi-Player Online (MMO) Learning Game platform is a NASA-wide initiative managed at Goddard and administered by the Learning Technologies Project Office (LTPO). The project is designed to increase interest in, and pursuit of, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for middle school through higher education students.

Medical and cognitive research indicates that the human brain can be induced to create new neural pathways through simulation. In the same way, NASA hopes to be able to enhance learning through use of “immersive synthetic environments”( ISEs) such as online games. Users can immerse themselves in a virtual world and through that environment, train their brain by doing things they might not be able to do in real life.

Image“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet,” noted NASA LTPO’s Daniel Laughlin.

The MMO platform helps players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers. These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change. Virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit learners to tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity — making it easier to grasp complex concepts and transfer this understanding quickly to practical problems.

For more information on NASA’s MMO Initiative, click here.

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